We all know how this ends. (Image: Tina Tiller)
We all know how this ends. (Image: Tina Tiller)

SocietyJune 16, 2022

Please put the scary Christchurch dolls back

We all know how this ends. (Image: Tina Tiller)
We all know how this ends. (Image: Tina Tiller)

Christchurch archaeologists have dug up a bunch of 150-year-old ‘Frozen Charlotte’ dolls. Can they please put them back, writes Alex Casey. 

This morning, Stuff reported archeologists in Christchurch had unearthed thousands of 150-year-old objects, including a gaggle of haunting “Frozen Charlotte” dolls. “This is an extremely rich site,’’ Southern Pacific Archaeological Research (SPAR) director Richard Walter told Stuff. “We weren’t expecting this much material and the diversity of the material is really interesting.” The dig also discovered an intact chamber pot – a fitting accoutrement for when you inevitably crap yourself at the sight of these ghoulish girlies. 

A brief dig around the internet quickly reveals the haunting history of Frozen Charlotte dolls. They became popular in the Victorian era, their creepy name inspired by an equally creepy poem written by Seba Smith in Maine in 1843. After reading a news article about a young woman who froze to death on a sleigh ride to a New Year’s Eve ball, Smith penned the terrifying ditty “A Corpse Going to a Ball”, which you can read in full on this scary steampunk website. That poem then inspired a popular folk ballad named Fair Charlotte, which then inspired millions of dead-looking dolls named FROZEN CHARLOTTE. 

Normal things

According to the Washington Post, the dolls sold for about a penny each and went absolutely gangbusters – basically the LOL Surprise doll of the 1800s, except the surprise was that your mum might have submerged a tiny ceramic corpse in your bath or birthday cake for some reason. Some Frozen Charlottes were even sold with dinky Barbie-like accessories, including tiny caskets and fashionable shrouds to stave off hypothermia. It makes sense, then, that the Christchurch Charlottes most likely belonged to students at Christchurch Ladies’ School, which sat on the site of the dig on the corner of Tuam Street and Oxford Terrace in the late 1850s.

There is no doubt that this is Aotearoa’s most significant old doll story since what The Spinoff staff still refer to literally on the daily as the Waipū Terror Doll – a doll that was stolen from the Waipū museum and returned days later very bald and stuffed in a bread bag. And while I understand the historical significance of this discovery, I am nevertheless begging those who dug up the dollies to reconsider and simply place them gently back into their graves, or at least in a padded maximum security room, preferably far, far away from Waipū. 

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last two years, it is not to look to science or experts in times of crisis, but to celebrities. And according to celebrities, old dolls are ruining their lives. In 2019, Ozzy Osbourne revealed that he experienced a litany of health problems thanks to a haunted doll named Robert. Post Malone had a private jet emergency, a car crash and a break-in after messing with a haunted box in Las Vegas (not quite a doll but very much the type of thing you might find containing a doll). Posh Spice dressed like haunted doll Annabelle last year and then her son got this big cursed tattoo. Coincidence?

And don’t even get me started on what we should have learned from fiction by now about mucking about with crummy old dollies. I’ve seen all the films, I’ve read all the Goosebumps books, I know how this ends. Annabelle comes home and nobody is happy to see her. Chucky gets an actually pretty good TV reboot. Slappy the Living Dummy stuffs himself into a watercooler and completely ruins my childhood. In 2022, the very last thing we need is a Frozen Charlotte Winter, so let’s let sleeping Charlottes lie and keep our fucked-up dolls in the past where they belong.

(The ONLY exception I’m willing to allow is Greta Gerwig’s Barbie film, which eerily revealed the first look at Ryan Gosling’s Ken on the same day the Frozen Charlottes were dug up. Coincidence?)

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

Get The Spinoff
in your inbox